Early Saturday morning, I parked near the Lake Monocan clubhouse and unloaded the lemon poppy seed bread I’d made that morning, a large bag of trail mix and other materials for the day. It was the annual Women’s Retreat for Bethany Lutheran Church. Spring rains had chilled the damp air and birthed a riot of green vegetation and birdcalls.
When I entered the clubhouse, the warmth of a wood-burning fire in the fireplace and the smell of cinnamon buns baking in the kitchen greeted me. I was reminded me of Girl Scout Camp where we sang “Make New Friends” and the Brownie Smile Song: “I’ve got something in my pocket that belongs across my face…”
The advance team had set up tables for large and small groups plus refreshments. Birdhouse centerpieces, made by the pastor with his wife, decorated the tables. Four birdhouses would be given away to the lucky ladies seated in chairs with flower stickers under the seats. Each participant received a gift bag with goodies—a bottle of water, pen, pocket-sized journal, birdseed heart—and a theme-coordinated, custom-made nametag.
The topic for the day was “Who’s in Charge,” a follow-up to our Bible Study on worry and control.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worry add a single hour to your span of life?” Matthew 6:25-27
After the women arrived—I counted 25—the pastor’s wife led us in prayer and an icebreaker. We women were married and unmarried, working and retired, with children and without; women with children learning to drive, leaving home, having babies; women with grandchildren and great-grandchildren; women in good health, women living with challenges, women facing change.
“It is hard work to open up our entire being—heart, mind, and body—to Love. From childhood, we’re trained to protect ourselves by closing off one or more of these channels. Perhaps this was a necessary coping mechanism. But to develop a mature, holistic faith, we must learn to embrace and listen to each part in the safety of God’s presence.” Richard Rohr’s Saturday, April 30 Summary Reflections & Practice
The morning large-group session was scripture-based: a Mind-study. After lunch, we split into four groups for crafting and journaling (Heart), reflexology and a contemplative walk (Body). I led the journaling session twice then traded with the retreat leader who coordinated the contemplative walk.
After instructing my first walking group, I wandered the trails by myself, listening to birdcalls and smelling the damp forest. But the second time, I took a woman’s hand and became her cane. We walked part way down the fence-lined bike path. By the time we returned to the clubhouse, I’d made a new friend.
And the something in our pockets was on our faces.